So often today we hear about self-love and self-care. Is this what God wants for us? After all, “you can’t help others until you help yourself” sounds logical. “You cannot pour from an empty cup” also sounds right. I am here to tell you that some of these sayings are used inappropriately to promote concepts that are not Biblically sound, and others are just flat out wrong. So what does the Bible say about loving yourself?
First, loving yourself is not about being prideful or arrogant.
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Philippians 2:3 ESV
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant
I Corinthians 13:4 ESV
Love is about thinking more of others than yourself. There is no room for putting yourself above other people. The minute you do that, you are no longer loving. It is not about pampering yourself. It is not a sin to pamper yourself, but pampering yourself has nothing to do with the Bible or love. It is just a nice thing to do once in a while. The thing is, you are not the focus of love, others are. So self-love is a misnomer.
Don’t take away from this that it is ok to not take care of yourself, or that you should beat yourself up either mentally or physically. That is not the case either. So let’s explore what the Bible says we should do with and think about ourselves.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:26-27 ESV
We are made in God’s image. That is a special thing. Nothing else was created in his image, just humans. This may not seem like a big deal, but it is. God made you in such a way that you resemble him and if you believe in Jesus, you actually become his child.
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.
1 John 3:1 ESV
Think about that. What do you want for your children? You want them to think well of themselves and you want no harm to come to them. Jesus wants the same for us. He does not want us to think that we are horrible creatures and he does not want us to harm ourselves. We should go into the world with confidence, knowing that we are valuable. We are heirs to the kingdom. Yes, we sin and make mistakes, but we are forgiven and we are loved.
Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?
James 2:5 ESV
And if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Romans 8:17 ESV
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world
Matthew 25:34 ESV
Don’t you see? You are important to God. Once you believe in Jesus, you become his child and heir! That is something to have confidence in! Jesus came to earth and died a horrible death for you so that you could become a child of God and an heir to the kingdom! That is love! That is something to hope in!
Once we give our lives to Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us. What does this mean? It literally means the spirit of God is living within you. He will guide you, remind you, direct you, and help you. This also means that your body is the house for the Holy Spirit.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV
Your body houses the Holy Spirit and we should treat our bodies accordingly. This doesn’t mean that we have to look glamorous or spend hours at the gym everyday. In fact, it has less to do with how we look and more to do with how we treat our body.
How do we treat things that are special? We make sure to protect them as best we can from getting broken. We clean the items. We make sure that nothing harmful touches or gets in the item. We may perform maintenance on the item. When the item is damaged or broken we take it to get fixed, we don’t leave it in disarray.
Our bodies should be treated similarly. Take care of your body. Make sure it is working well. Don’t put things into your body that are not healthy for it. If you have an issue, get it fixed, don’t let the problem fester. We have this one body while we are here on earth. God has given it to us and it is housing the Holy Spirit. Treat it like the gift that it is.
I know many of you may be thinking that God gave you a defective body and there is nothing to glorify him about in regards to it. I know how this feels. I suffer greatly from a body that does not work as it should. This does not in any way diminish your value or make your body any less worthy of housing the Holy Spirit. You see, God allowed you to have the body you have. Whether your body is healthy or broken, you have it in order to bring glory to God. It may be that your situation will help bring others to Christ. It may also be that your body is like the thorn Paul had; something to keep him closer to Christ and to not get boastful.
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ESV
It is in our weaknesses that God’s power is best seen. It is through hardships and difficulties that others can see Jesus in us. So although physical ailments can be debilitating and wreak havoc on our peace, know that it is for a purpose. It may be for others, or it may be for you. But either way, God loves you just as much and does not think less of you because of it. In fact, he has a plan for you in the midst of all of it. So take heart! Rest in the knowledge that despite your physical ailments you are an heir to the kingdom and a child of God!
Love is a powerful thing. What makes it powerful is that it is not about you. It is about others. Love requires sacrifice. That is what makes it meaningful.
Jesus left perfect heaven. He left his perfect form. He came to earth to experience all the hurts, pain, and suffering that we go through. He did that so that he could be ridiculed, beaten, tortured, and killed. All of that, he did because he loves us and wants us to be with him. His love is a perfect love. It was sacrificial. It put others before himself. That is what love is. Because Jesus paid such a high price for us, we owe it to him to take care of ourselves, mentally and physically. That doesn’t mean we love ourselves more than others. It means we respect ourselves, we take care of ourselves, and we set ourselves about the business of loving others.
Thank you for the love you have shown me. Thank you for thinking of me before yourself. Help me to do the same. I want to love others the way you loved me.
Lord, I need help. I need to take care of myself but not get caught up in earthly trappings. Help me to keep the focus on you. Help me to see my worth through your eyes, not the world’s eyes.
In your name I pray,
- How do you treat yourself? Do you treat yourself like someone who knows their place in the kingdom? Or do you treat yourself like someone less than?
- Do you beat yourself up, either mentally or physically?
- Do you spend too much time loving yourself instead of others?
- Go to God in prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal ways that you are not treating yourself appropriately.
- Write down steps that you can take to make changes in your life so that you can portray righteous love.